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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Facing Loss and Pain without Complaint: Richard G. Scott's Personal Perspective

While visiting my parents in Salt Lake City today, we had a beautiful Priesthood lesson based on Elder Richard G. Scott's General Conference sermon from April 2009, "Temple Worship: The Source of Strength and Power in Times of Need." I was touched by the deeply personal thoughts Elder Scott conveyed as he contemplated the passing away of his wife and also of two of his young children. These closing words from his talk touched me deeply in our class today.
Now I would like to speak of the special meaning the temple has for me. Part of this message is going to be sensitive, so I will appreciate your prayers as I give it so that I do not become too emotional.

Fourteen years ago the Lord took my wife beyond the veil. I love her with all my heart, but I have never complained because I know it was His will. I have never asked why but rather what is it that He wants me to learn from this experience. I believe that is a good way to face the unpleasant things in our lives, not complaining but thanking the Lord for the trust He places in us when He gives us the opportunity to overcome difficulties.

We had the blessing of having children. A daughter, the first child, continues to be an enormous blessing in our lives. A couple of years later a son we named Richard was born. A few years later a daughter was born. She died after living only a few minutes.

Our son, Richard, was born with a heart defect. We were told that unless that could be cured, there was little probability that he would live more than two or three years. This was so long ago that techniques now used to repair such defects were unknown. We had the blessing of having a place where doctors agreed to attempt to perform the needed surgery. The surgery had to be done while his little heart was beating.

The surgery was performed just six weeks after the birth and death of our baby daughter. When the operation finished, the principal surgeon came in and said it was a success. And we thought, “How wonderful! Our son will have a strong body, be able to run and walk and grow!” We expressed deep gratitude to the Lord. Then about 10 minutes later, the same doctor came in with an ashen face and told us, “Your son has died.” Apparently the shock of the operation was more than his little body could endure.

Later, during the night, I embraced my wife and said to her, “We do not need to worry, because our children were born in the covenant. We have the assurance that we will have them with us in the future. Now we have a reason to live extremely well. We have a son and a daughter who have qualified to go to the celestial kingdom because they died before the age of eight.” That knowledge has given us great comfort. We rejoice in the knowledge that all seven of our children are sealed to us for time and all eternity.

That trial has not been a problem for either of us because, when we live righteously and have received the ordinances of the temple, everything else is in the hands of the Lord. We can do the best we can, but the final outcome is up to Him. We should never complain, when we are living worthily, about what happens in our lives.

Fourteen years ago the Lord decided it was not necessary for my wife to live any longer on the earth, and He took her to the other side of the veil. I confess that there are times when it is difficult not to be able to turn and talk to her, but I do not complain. The Lord has allowed me, at important moments in my life, to feel her influence through the veil.

What I am trying to teach is that when we keep the temple covenants we have made and when we live righteously in order to maintain the blessings promised by those ordinances, then come what may, we have no reason to worry or to feel despondent.

I know that I will have the privilege of being with that beautiful wife, whom I love with all my heart, and with those children who are with her on the other side of the veil because of the ordinances that are performed in the temple. What a blessing to have once again on the earth the sealing authority, not only for this mortal life but for the eternities. I am grateful that the Lord has restored His gospel in its fulness, including the ordinances that are required for us to be happy in the world and to live everlastingly happy lives in the hereafter.

This is the work of the Lord. Jesus Christ lives. This is His Church. I am a witness of Him and of His Atonement, which is the foundation that makes effective and lasting every ordinance performed in the temples. I so testify with every capacity I possess, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

His attitude is remarkable. I can imagine myself complaining with much bitterness if I were to face such a trial. But he did this without complaining, trusting in the Lord and turning to Him for guidance. "I believe that is a good way to face the unpleasant things in our lives, not complaining but thanking the Lord for the trust He places in us when He gives us the opportunity to overcome difficulties." I find that profound, and hope that I can grow to have this kind of attitude. Not that we shouldn't share our emotions and our feelings, but that we should retain the eternal perspective and accept the grief life brings us with patience and humility, seeking to understand what we should do and what we should learn from these experiences, with gratitude for what the Lord has given us--especially for the blessings of the Temple that can bind families together forever.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...
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Mormanity said...

Corrected the name of the Apostle giving the talk. Thanks.

sister blah 2 said...

Thanks for highlighting this. It can be so easy to forget that each man we see speaking at conference is an individual and many didn't have the perfect happy-go-lucky lives we sometimes assume they must have had.

Brad said...

What a wonderful message. I too can share what Elder Scott so eloquently said. When my wife and I were still in our first year of marriage, we were blessed with a beautiful baby boy. Unfortunately, a few weeks after his birth, he passed from this life to the next. It was extremely hard on us, however we were so blessed at the time to receive a wonderful gift in the way of a Ensign article by Elder McConkie that talked about the promise the Lord has made to those who have lost little children. What a sweet and wonderful comfort this message has been these many years. Several years ago, we lost another son. He had been disabled and wheelchair bound since almost birth. The glorious thing about the whole experience with him was that he never complained, was always happy and upbeat, and was such an example to me.

I am grateful to loving Heavenly Father. He knows exactly what I need, when I need it. The temples are truly a source of peace, education, and revelation! I too testify their importance in our lives, and the great solace they give. I await the day when I too will be called home and embraced by those two sweet boys!

Tony said...

Thank you, Jeff, for sharing such a beautiful talk. I'm happy for the children of Elder Scott that they can rest with their mother. What a humble and loving man he is.

God be thanked for the ordinances that bind us to Him and to our families forever. I hope that can someday become a reality for both of my parents, as well as my future family.

Bookslinger said...

President Spencer Kimball was famous for saying something like: "The only true tragedy is unrepented sin."

Anonymous said...

The last word of the Title-"Perspactive"- did you mean "Perspecive?" :)

Anonymous said...

perspective

Mormanity said...

"Perspactive" was probably just my old Rocky Mountain dialect - or dialact - showing through. ;) Changed it.

Sofia's Primary Ideas said...

I lost my 2 month old son to SIDS last month. I hate to say "lost". I know exactly where he is :) I noticed you put that you could imagine yourself complaining. We can imagine a lot of things, but you should have more faith in yourself. God trusts us and only gives us what we can bear.

I can testify also of peace that comes of Christ and not of the world. There is such power as that of the ministering of angels.

I love that I have agency. I can choose. I may not be able to choose having my son to feed or adore or brush his cheek by mine, but I will have that glorious day in time. I choose to kneel before my maker and confess that Jesus is the Christ. I choose to align my will to His. I choose to follow His plan and let His wisdom guide my path.

The thing is, I chose this before I had to face the pain I'm going through now. And when the choice is made life can be happy even in hard times. You've made that choice... that's why I love reading your uplifting and witty blog. Don't imagine, just know.

ColleenaMareena said...

Thank you.

~plaid said...

I think this is a good source for direction for some. But knowing that "to some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby," I think it is good to recognize that those who go through sorrows and grief of losing children and/or loved ones may *righteously* experience a completely different journey than Elder Scott recounts. Don't believe me? When's the last time you read Job? All of it? Job did his share of complaining, although he also was quite insistent that the Lord was good (see Job 2:10). Honestly, sometimes I think people forget that this life is a place for learning and growing. Sometimes I think ideas are over-simplified, or one's recounting of their experience is used as a guide to compare others who go through a similar experience. While it is a good reminder for all who suffer in grief to know that there are gospel truths that can bring us a certain level of comfort, let us also not forget that there are many other righteous directives given by prophets that compassionately acknowledge that these experiences are very difficult and trying, and that even the most wonderful and righteous among us will not handle these things perfectly. I also want to point out to anyone who reads this and thinks they have some sort of doctrine to use against anyone they deem to be bitter or not "handling their grief well" that any of us can tell a large part of our lives (spanning years) in a ten minute address and omit the dark, "dirty" part of those years in order to present the polished package of learning that we feel can help give direction to others. Because Elder Scott didn't speak of a single complaint doesn't mean there never was a complaint or a thought to complain. But if he truly was 100% complaint free, this is likely one of his gifts that he was given, and one that he was probably given because of his unique needs in this life, or because he had already mastered this before these experiences came into his life. Please remember to have patience with others who are in difficult circumstances. They may still be quite righteous, and still struggle with complaining and murmuring. I like to think that Sariah was a wonderfully righteous woman, and yet even the THOUGHT that her sons had perished brought complaining and murmuring. (see 1 Nephi 5) She had begun mourning even though her sons were still alive because she THOUGHT they were gone. I don't think any less of Sariah because her heart was so troubled, or because she complained and murmured out loud. I also do not think any less of Elder Scott for being able to avoid complaint or murmuring. I just worry that those of us who are quick to judge will use this article as a way to justify not helping others who are grieving or struggling, thinking that they are now "unworthy" if they complain or murmur. I'm rambling. I hope the intent of what I am saying is coming through right.